When I heard that Obama was coming to Austin this week, I immediately contacted my editor at Austinist and told her I wanted to cover it. She said, “Great!” Then I had to figure out HOW to do that. Luckily, I know a lot of smart, connected people. My friend Katherine, who knows things about politics, told me to literally call the White House switchboard and ask to get credentials to cover the president’s visit. AND IT WORKED.
The switchboard put me through to the White House Press Office and they added me to their press email list. When the emails went out asking journalists to RSVP for his two main stops (at a local high school and a local high tech manufacturing company), I did. And my credentials were approved.
So, yesterday at 9:30am, I showed up at Manor New Technology High School, four hours before he was scheduled to talk. Bomb-sniffing dogs checked out our bags and the Secret Service actually went through them very thoroughly. We had to be swiped with a metal-detecting wand before we could get in. And, of course, we had to get our credentials. I will keep mine forever.
The speech at Manor New Technology High School was my favorite part because the students were SO excited about being there. Applied Materials, on the other hand, was a totally different feel. For one thing, we were in a huge warehouse-type room that was FREEZING cold. I could barely type because my fingers were so frozen. People were certainly excited to be there but it just didn’t have the same energy that the high school did.
The two speeches were extremely similar in content and they were based on what Obama had said in the State of the Union address. So, that part was not so exciting.
But it was very cool to get to experience what it’s like to be in the press when covering the president. There are so many photographers and journalists (though much less of the latter). Everyone is so intense because there isn’t actually that much to report on so the point for most people is to be the first one to get the picture or the quote out there. I ended the experience thinking that there was a lot of redundancy among the press and that it was, overall, a very boring, long day. But still, not one I’d trade for anything.
Here is my write-up about it at the Austinist: Hello Texas! President Obama Visits Austin. And below is a gallery of images I took with my iPhone and published to my Instagram feed yesterday.
These young children were waiting impatiently for Obama. All are standing up on chairs so they can see.
What is looked like after Obama finished his speech at Applied Materials and was down on the ground shaking hands.
And the man himself: President Obama.
Obama shaking hands after his speech at Applied Materials.
Waiting in line with other journalists to get my credentials
Jourdan Tucker, the young woman who sang the national anthem. She was a student at the neighboring Manor High School.
This boy is showing off where Obama signed his cast.
Obama at Applied Materials.
These high school students were so excited to be there. Kept jumping and high-fiving.
The scene at Applied Materials. We were in a VERY cold warehouse type room that looked like it was used for manufacturing.
Obama at Applied Mateirals.
A student saying the Pledge of Allegiance.
Obama shaking hands after his speech.
The young guy who seemed to be in charge of coordinating all of us. Here he was telling us space was tight inside the gym and to “be nice” to each other.
You can see where Obama signed this boy’s cast with “BO.”
The National pool of reporters traveling with Obama. They came in at the last second and got to sit at the tables with tablecloths and power strips. Us local folks did not get that despite having been there for hours.
The bomb-sniffing dog makes sure that all of our stuff was okay
Jay Carney, the White House spokesperson, showed up at Applied Materials and hung out in the press area during Obama’s speech.
My view of Obama (no zoom) from my seat at Applied Materials.
Congressman Lloyd Doggett in the blue shirt. Texas State Representative Mark Strama on left side of Doggett.
Obama at Applied Materials.
The adorable students on the risers behind where Obama would speak. The stood for HOURS there.
My view (not zoomed in) from my seat in the press area.
My view of the stage where President Obama would speak at Manor New Technology High School
Jourdan Tucker singing the national anthem.
One of the areas set up at Manor New Tech High School for the press’ cameras.
A senior at Manor New Technology High School introducing Obama.
The audio test.